Audiobook Review: Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Audible Studios (February 17, 2017)
Length: 2 hrs and 23 mins
Narrator: William DeMeritt
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of short fiction, but I genuinely enjoy reading Brandon Sanderson novellas. Honestly, I have no idea how the guy does it. Whether his books are 1000 pages or 100, they’re always fun to read, not to mention creative as hell. As you’d expect, this was definitely the case with Snapshot as well.
Davis and Chaz are investigative partners with an interesting job, working out of a town called New Clipperton where law enforcement has access to a very special facility that helps them solve crimes. The police there have access to a technology that allows them to create a “Snapshot”, a perfect reconstruction of a day recently in the past right down to the smallest detail. Knowing exactly what’s going to happen beforehand, investigators like Davis and Chaz can be sent through into Snapshots to gather evidence or to witness the actual crimes that take place, which may then lead to arrests and charges in the real world.
There are a lot of rules, though. While Snapshots are perfect recreations of a day in time, real people who are sent through can affect the world just like it is their own. Any changes are called deviations, and they can be large or small. People are also recreated in Snapshots, called dupes. They are not real, but they might as well be for all intents and purposes—after all, they are flesh and blood, they retain the same personalities and memories as their originals, and most importantly, they also have no idea they are in a Snapshot. The only way they would find out is if they are confronted by a Snapshot agent, who is the absolute authority while he or she is on the job. Snapshot agents can still be hurt and even die while they are in a Snapshot, but they also carry special badges that allows them to overrule the civil rights of any dupes around them, which gives them access to places and information that they likely wouldn’t have gotten back in the real world.
When the story begins, we learn that Davis and Chaz are in a Snapshot of May 1st, ten days in the past. Originally assigned to do routine evidence gathering for a case they’re working on, the two of them end up accidentally stumbling onto a crime scene of a mass killing. To Davis and Chaz, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch a wanted murderer, but their precinct orders them to stand down and walk away instead, giving our protagonists no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
What follows next is a pulse-pounding hunt for a serial killer as our two able investigators uncover even more gruesome details about the perpetrator’s crimes. If you’re even passing familiar with Sanderson’s work though, you’ll already know that things are never so straightforward. Yes, Snapshot is a mystery, but there are so many layers to this novella that I believe even non-fans of crime and detective stories will be able to appreciate it. For one thing, there’s the fantastic premise which adds several extra dimensions to the mystery plot, and our characters are thrown into situations that will really make you think. Basically if the concept of using Snapshots to solve crimes sounds fascinating to you, then you’re going to love all the thought and creativity that went into this story.
I was also floored by the ending, which for me was definitely one of those bug-eyed “What the hell just happened?!” moments. I had to playback my audiobook several times just to make sure I heard everything right. That too, is classic Sanderson. He has this way of leading you down a garden path, making you think everything is going one way, and then BAM, he’ll show you just how innocent and naïve you were. Looking back, I guess I should have seen it coming, but in the end that twist still managed to knock me for a loop.
I don’t often hand out such high ratings for a novella simply because so few have impressed me to this degree, but I’ll happily throw my full recommendation behind Snapshot, which I thought was a truly imaginative and brilliant read. One final thing to note, this novella apparently takes place in the same universe as the Reckoners, though any links are very minor and aren’t even all that easy to catch, so reading the series is definitely not a prerequisite. This story can be enjoyed entirely on its own, so if it interests you, I would say go ahead and jump right in.
Audiobook Comments: Snapshot was a very short listen, perfect for when you need an audiobook to entertain you for a couple of hours. I’ve had experience with William DeMeritt as a narrator one other time only (for Underground Airlines by Ben Winters) but he has impressed me once again. His voice really is quite perfect for a book like this, with his deep tones enhancing the story’s crime noir vibes by bringing them to the surface. If you’re considering this one in audio, I highly recommend it.